Let’s Talk: How to Help Your Child Engage in Meaningful Conversations

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Teaching children good conversational skills helps build their confidence and relationships, and could even strengthen your bond with them.

Children raised in a language-rich environment generally experience more success in personal, academic, and professional situations throughout their lives. The ability to express thoughts, emotions, and ideas helps them create connections and build lasting confidence.

Teaching children good conversation skills doesn’t only benefit them. It also allows you a better view of their lives and experiences, which can help improve parenting skills and strengthen your relationship with them. Raising a good conversationalist can help you and your child lead better lives, together and apart.

Talk the talk

The ability to start, join, or engage in conversation is a skill many adults take for granted. Children may seem to learn social interactions organically through experience — and in some cases they do — but you can help improve their conversational proficiency by practicing at home.

Here are four ways to help children learn to start and maintain meaningful conversations.

1. Initiating conversation

Starting a conversation can be challenging even when you have life experience. As a child, initiating dialog can be truly intimidating. Give your child clues about social cues and suggestions on how to strike up a conversation with others.

Emphasize:

  • Body language and appropriate timing

  • Appropriate greetings and introductions

  • How to choose a topic or ask others about an interest

Model good skills by:

  • Introducing yourself to other adults in your child’s presence

  • Giving gentle and supportive feedback and suggestions

  • Encouraging your child to approach peers in social situations

2. Encourage exchanges

As adults, we’ve all experienced the awkward burden of having to carry the conversation. Teach your child about the reciprocal nature of conversations and that it makes people feel good to know the other party is interested in what they have to say.

Emphasize:

  • The importance of eye contact

  • Commenting on or otherwise acknowledging statements

  • Asking appropriate questions

Model good skills by:

  • Showing interest in what your child is saying

  • Taking turns communicating

  • Providing time for them to respond

3. Expanding conversations

Natural lulls in conversation or an obvious lack of interest from the other party mean it’s time to talk about a new topic. Help your child recognize these moments to move past the initial introductions and add depth to their dialog.

Emphasize:

  • Not monopolizing conversations with their own interests

  • How to take turns while talking

  • To listen for clues about topics the other party may be interested in

Model good skills by:

  • Asking your child open-ended questions about things they’ve said

  • Suggesting some general topics others may be interested in discussing

  • Practicing with sentence stem cards

4. Comfortable conclusions

Knowing how to end a conversation can be as difficult as understanding how to approach one. It’s important to recognize when the other party has to go, when the conversation has naturally come to an end, and how to extricate yourself gracefully.

Emphasize:

  • Body language and non-verbal cues of both the speaker and the listener

  • Transitional closing statements, such as, “Well, I have to get going.”

  • Making the other party feel good about the interaction: “It was nice meeting you!”

 

  • Model good skills by:

  • Point out nonverbal cues, like yawning, turning away, or checking the time

  • Teach your child phrases to politely end the conversation

  • Politely step in to remind your child it’s time to go if you see they need help

The best way to help your child master the art of conversation is to practice, practice, and practice. Ask them about their day, their friends, and their interests; encourage conversations with friends and family members. Exposing children to a broad range of people and situations can help them develop the self-confidence and social savvy to excel at talking to others.

Lumiere Children's Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about out social enrichment classes on how to initiate meaningful conversations.